While I love being busy and actively engaged with other people, I also love my moments of solitude and silence. So today I’m sharing a letter written by Jenny McGill about how all of us might steal away from whatever daily dramas we face and be refreshed.
I had to smile at one of her creative suggestions for practicing silence, but I might actually try it some time–I’d love to hear what you think about her idea to give up personal pronouns for a day–or even for an hour!
This excerpt appears with permission from Walk with Me: Learning to Love and Follow Jesus by Jenny McGill. The book releases next month. For a brief summary, please see the end of the excerpt.
Stealing Away: Solitude and Silence
As I write you this quiet morning, I find myself frustrated. Not at you, of course. The year’s end marks several accounting items that I have addressed, but because other people have delayed doing their part, several things are not yet resolved. The “worries of this life” (Luke 12:22–32) are distracting my thoughts, and I’m tempted to surrender joy, a Christian’s happy companion. So I smiled as I sat down and saw the next topic slated for me to write today.
You well know the craze of our lives. We are swept up in the rush and panic of daily drama. Christians over the centuries, mimicking Christ’s example, have learned ways to pull away (Mark 6:31–32, 45–46). It takes energy and intention, but seeking times of solitude and silence as a spiritual exercise renews us. Slipping away from the din of the voices demanding our attention restores us. Slowing down, seeking God, being silent refreshes us in unique ways. Some people separate solitude and silence as different exercises, and they are. I pair them because as two perfect companions, they lead us to stillness together.
Seeking solitude, I plan periodic weekends or Saturdays to be spent alone every year. You may decide that one hour in the morning three times a week before everyone else wakes up is the best option possible in your current season of life. Be creative. Be consistent. Parks, creek banks, closets, cars, chapels, open fields, and bedrooms have all been quiet places that have worked for me. I’ve had friends loan me their vacant home for a day. I’ve stayed at a bed and breakfast, a monastery, and at home. God leaves it to us to determine how and how often to seek solitude, and you will know when you especially need to do it.
Feeling overwhelmed is a good tip that it’s time to steal yourself away. These are times to be still. Psalm 46:10a is a favorite of some to quote: “Be still, and know that I am God.” But what’s the second half of that verse? “I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” Being still is so that we remember our place and God’s and what God wants to do for the world. Solitude teaches us perspective, something we can’t get any other way other than stopping and being alone with God. It’s magnificent. Like any exercise, it takes some practice to get into it. You may find it awkward or difficult at first, but you’ll get there.
How in the world does one practice silence? Lots of ways! Be speechless for a certain amount of time. Or watch what words you say in a given day. I’ll not soon forget what my Haitian friend, who had come to study in the U.S., shared with me one day in class. He was shocked at how often he heard Americans, even professors, use the words I, me, and mine. His experience in Haiti was the opposite. Politeness, respect, and good living in Haiti means focusing more on others than oneself. Words like you and yours peppered their speech much more often than self-centered pronouns. I determined that day that one of the ways I would exercise silence was to spend certain days trying not to use personal pronouns. Try it. It’s hilarious how hard it is.
God has given us such great imaginations, so I look forward to your ideas of how we can live in solitude and silence imitating the way of Christ.
Seek the quiet places and ancient paths (Jeremiah 6:16),
Book Summary: Walk with Me is a discipleship resource for women to read, discuss, and learn to follow Jesus together. Designed to be easily accessible for readers without a church background or biblical literacy, the material appears in bite-sized pieces as a series of letters covering four keys in following Christ: (1) the basic beliefs of a Christian, (2) living like a Christian, (3) the habits of a Christian (aka spiritual disciplines), and (4) understanding the Bible as a whole.
Writing/Reflection Prompt (one of the discussion questions in Walk with Me): Getting away is a practice, a habit, a discipline like anything else. How will you make this happen for you?
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